Image of Laurie LeshinLaurie Leshin, PhD

Laurie Leshin became the 16th president of Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) in June of 2014. As president, she is committed to elevating WPI’s impact in communities worldwide.

Leshin brings to WPI over 20 years of experience as a leader in academia and government service, and an accomplished record as a space scientist. She combines a life-long love of learning and exploration with a strong track record of igniting action to advance critical institutions and programs.

Prior to joining WPI, Leshin served as the Dean of the School of Science at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York. There she expanded and strengthened interdisciplinary scientific research and education, championed diversity in STEM, and significantly expanded fundraising and outreach initiatives. While at Rensselaer, Leshin continued her work as a scientist for the Mars Curiosity Rover mission and was appointed by President Obama to the Advisory Board for the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.

Prior to joining Rensselaer, Leshin served as the deputy director of NASA’s Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, where she was responsible for oversight of NASA’s future human spaceflight programs and activities. Leshin also worked as the director of science and exploration at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

Before joining NASA, Leshin was the Dee and John Whiteman Dean’s Distinguished Professor of Geological Sciences at Arizona State University, where she led the development of the first-of-its-kind interdisciplinary School of Earth and Space Exploration and served as director of the Center for Meteorite Studies. While at ASU, Leshin was appointed by President Bush to serve on the Commission for the Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy, which called for a transformation in the nation’s approach to space exploration.

Leshin is a recipient of NASA’s Outstanding Leadership Medal, NASA’s Distinguished Public Service Medal, and the Meteoritical Society’s Nier Prize. She has served on the Board of Directors of Women in Aerospace and the Council of the American Geophysical Union. In 2001 the International Astronomical Union named an asteroid in recognition of her contributions to planetary science: Asteroid 4922 Leshin.

Leshin received a B.S. in chemistry from ASU in 1987 and a Ph.D. in geochemistry from the California Institute of Technology in 1994. She is married to Dr. Jon Morse, an astrophysicist who is chief executive officer of the BoldlyGo Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing space-based science and discovery.

WPI is a distinctive, top-tier technological university founded in 1865 on the principle that students learn most effectively by applying the theory learned in the classroom to the practice of solving real-world problems. That founding idea is embodied today in WPI’s unique project-based curriculum that engages undergraduates in solving important scientific, technological, and societal problems throughout their education. With residential project centers at almost 40 locations around the world, WPI is truly a global polytechnic. At the graduate level, WPI faculty and students pursue groundbreaking transdisciplinary research to meet ongoing challenges in life sciences, biomedical engineering, cybersecurity, materials science and engineering, and robotics engineering, among others.

President Leshin Facts and Career Highlights

President Laurie Leshin describes herself as a “space nerd” and shares WPI’s love and pride for Robert Goddard. Her professional biography is impressive as well as interesting, as are these facts and highlights about the 16th president of WPI:

  • She’s a member of NASA’s Mars Curiosity team, still on call for monitoring the rover
  • She received the NASA Distinguished Public Service Medal in 2004 and the Outstanding Leadership Medal in 2011
  • Her research area is cosmochemistry, the study of the chemical composition of matter in the universe
  • She has an asteroid named for her: 4922 Leshin, located in the main belt of asteroids between Mars and Jupiter and discovered on March 2, 1981
  • She shares a birthday with astronaut Neil Armstrong
  • She’s an avid Twitter user, with over 4,000 followers @LaurieofMars
  • She is a strong advocate for women in STEM and worked with Sally Ride, the first American woman in space, on a science education program for girls
  • She was appointed by President Barack Obama to the Advisory Board of the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum
  • She served on President Bush’s Commission on Implementation of United States Space Exploration Policy
  • She was born in Boston and raised in Tempe, Arizona
  • She gave a presentation on space exploration to Queen Elizabeth II when she visited NASA in 2007
  • She spent six weeks living in a tent and collecting meteorites in Antarctica